Word lets you hide text so you can read or print your document as if the text isn’t there. This might seem pointless—why not just remove the text if you don’t want someone to read it—but hidden text does have some interesting uses. Let’s take a look at what hidden text is (and what it isn’t), why you might want to hide text, and how to do it.

What is Hidden Text?

Word hides text by using formatting marks—the same way you’d format text as bold or italic. Instead of removing the text, Word applies a formatting mark that means “don’t display this text.”

Because hidden text is just standard text with formatting marks applied, anyone who can edit the document can search for hidden text and display it. So it’s not a security measure, and you should never rely on hidden text to prevent a determined person from reading something in your document. If you don’t want someone to read something you’ve written, either remove the text entirely or don’t send the document to them.

Why Would you Want to Hide Text?

Hiding text does have its uses. If you want to print a document without some text showing up, you can do that with hidden text (although make sure you haven’t turned on the option to print hidden text). One great use for this is if you had a document you want to print and hand out to an audience, but you wanted your copy of the document to contain notes just for you.

You might also want different people to review different parts of a document, and hidden text presents a simple way to show only those parts that you need a person to review (as long as you don’t mind them seeing the hidden text if they find it).

You can also hide images and other embedded objects, which can cut down on print time and cost, as well as make your document more readable if you just want pure text.

Note: You can only do this in the Word client on your computer. Word Online and Word apps for Android and iPhone don’t (yet) allow you to hide text.

How Do You Hide Text?

Hiding text is as simple as it gets. Select the text you want to hide, switch to the “Home” tab on the Ribbon, and then click the arrow at the bottom right of the “Font” group.

This opens up the Font window. Turn on the “Hidden” option and then click the “OK” button.

That’s all there is to it. The text you selected is no longer visible as if you’d deleted it from the document. If all that mouse clicking is too much for you, there’s also a keyboard shortcut to hide text—select your text and hit Ctrl+Shift+H.

How Do You Hide Objects Like Images?

You hide objects in the same way as you hide text—by selecting them and ticking the”Hidden” field in the Font panel (or using Ctrl+Shift+H). This method only works if your object uses the default text wrapping option of “In line with text,” which is when Word treats an object as just another piece of text. If your object has a different text wrapping option, but you still want to hide it, you’ll have to hide the paragraph to which the object is anchored. This hides the anchored object at the same time. (Not sure what an “anchored object” is? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our guide to positioning objects in Word.)

How Do You Unhide Text?

To unhide text, reverse the process. Select it and hit Ctrl+Shift+H or untick the”Hidden” field in the Font panel.

But, how do you select hidden text in the first place if you can’t see it? Because hidden text is just normal text with formatting marks applied, you need to display all of the formatting marks. This shows your hidden text.

To display all the formatting marks, click Home > Show/Hide.

You can also hit Ctrl+Shift+8 if you prefer. This shows all of the non-printing characters your document—things like paragraph marks, spaces, and tab characters.

Hidden text has a dotted line underneath it to differentiate it from regular text.

Select the hidden text and use Ctrl+Shift+H or the Font > Hidden setting to unhide the text.

If you’ve got a lot of hidden text to unhide, or you don’t want to search the whole document for hidden text, no problem. Select all the text in the document by hitting Ctrl+A and then use either of those same methods (Ctrl+Shift+H or Font > Hidden) to unhide all hidden text in the entire document (except in headers or footers, which you’ll have to do separately).

Click Home > Show/Hide or hit Ctrl+Shift+8 again to hide the formatting marks.

We mentioned at the top of this article that you can only hide/unhide text in the Word client and not in Word Online. The same goes for showing formatting marks, which you can do in the Word desktop app.

Can You Delete All Hidden Text at Once?

Yes, and we’ve previously shown you a way of doing this using Find and Replace. You can use that method to choose which hidden text to remove, but if you just want to guarantee that any hidden text is deleted, go to File > Check For Issues > Inspect Document.

The option you’re looking for is right at the bottom, and it’s called “Hidden Text.” Make sure any other options are switched off (unless you want to use them at the same time) and click the “Inspect” button.

If the Document Inspector finds any hidden text, it shows you a “Remove All” button. Click this to delete all hidden text in the document.

You cannot undo this action, so make sure you really want to remove all hidden text or that you’ve saved another copy of the document first.

Does This Work With Shared Documents?

If you use OneDrive or SharePoint, you can share your documents with other people. Hidden text is still hidden when the people with whom you’ve shared it view the document in Word Online because Word Online doesn’t let you hide/unhide text or show formatting marks. They can still download a copy and view it in the Word app. When they do that, they can click Home > Show/Hide and see the hidden text. So once again, don’t share a document with hidden text unless you’re okay with those people potentially seeing what you’ve hidden.

Rob Woodgate Rob Woodgate
Rob Woodgate is a writer and IT consultant with nearly 20 years of experience across the private and public sectors. He's also worked as a trainer, technical support person, delivery manager, system administrator, and in other roles that involve getting people and technology to work together.
Read Full Bio »